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PostPosted: Fri Mar 21, 2008 12:00 pm 

Joined: Tue Apr 24, 2007 10:57 pm
Posts: 90
Basil Brush: The un-PC punchline that went boom boom

Toytown was left reeling at the weekend when Mr Plod announced to a packed press conference that he was investigating resident fox Basil Brush for making racist slurs against Rosie and Jim, the famous ragdoll travellers.

Trouble in Toytown: Basil Brush

Brush, a well-to-do and much-liked member of the community, is reported to have told his close friend Iggle Piggle that since the arrival of the ragdolls in town, he ought to "tie everything down in the night garden. You know what those travellers are like! Ha ha! BOOM BOOM!"

Iggle Piggle, himself the subject of a recent investigation after a Tombliboo accused him of being "gay", said yesterday that he was "shocked and saddened by the comments.

Rosie and Jim are nice kids and Basil is old enough to know better. I was surprised by how un-PC his remarks are. Basil knows full well what the rules of Toytown are."

BOOM BOOM! Not really, though almost.

This week, in the real world, Northamptonshire police have been forced to investigate the stuffed fox after receiving a complaint about an episode of Basil's show in which he tells a joke about a gipsy fortune teller.

The fortune teller predicts that Basil is about to embark on a long journey. Too true, because, as Basil reveals, the man then "stole my wallet and I had to walk home".

We must assume that Mr Brush followed the joke with a hearty "Ha ha ha! BOOM BOOM!"

But Joseph Jones, the vice-chairman of the Southern England Romany, Gypsy and Irish Traveller Network, did not find the joke very funny and thinks that the BBC should withdraw the episode.

"To perpetuate this myth about gipsies and travellers is wrong," he said. "If they are going to keep showing this then I look forward to them bringing back the likes of Alf Garnett to the screen." Unfortunately, he followed this with neither a ha ha ha nor a boom boom.

What surprises me most about this story is not that children's television characters are now legitimate targets for the PC brigade.

It isn't even that the police would bother to investigate the remarks of a puppet whose penchant for lame, slightly dated jokes has long been his USP (Sample: "If I was a car, I'd be a Fur-rari!" and "If I wasn't a fox, I'd like to be a whale so I could have a whale of a time!"). It's that Basil Brush is still going strong.

The average fox has a 10-year lifespan, but Basil has now been on our screens for 45 years.

Created in 1963 by Peter Firmin, and based on the actor Terry Thomas, the cheeky yet urbane fox first appeared on The Three Scampies but was given the eponymous show in 1968.

It ran for 12 years and at its height was watched by a mind-boggling 12 million people.

But times change and children get ever more sophisticated, so relaunching the show in 2002 was a risk. His tweeds were replaced very occasionally with a zip-up jumper, but otherwise Basil remained the same - as did his jokes, which is to say they were absolutely terrible.

And yet it was a huge success in today's terms, pulling in about 1.5 million children an episode. He has since become a regular in panto and is always on tour.

Today he also fronts Basil's Swap Shop (another Seventies reprise) and even has his own website and blog.

It's amazing, in an age of computerised toys and video games - an age in which it was recently estimated that childhood actually ends at the tender age of 11 - that a two-toothed puppet in tweeds could remain so popular. But perhaps that is exactly why he is still so successful.

He may talk posh but there is nothing fancy about Basil; indeed, there is a sort of self-deprecating innocence to him. These jokes - they're all he's got!

His comic genius lies in the very fact that he isn't a comic genius. He is the doddering uncle making rubbish gags at great embarrassment to mum and dad but huge delight to the children.

As he once said of his laugh: "It's been in my family for generations - just like some of my jokes! Ha ha ha! BOOM! BOOM!"

For the sake of all of our children, one can only hope that it stays around for many generations to come.

"It's too short!
We need more monkeys! "

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